In Delaware, a lease can be oral or written, but oral leases cannot extend longer than 1 year. According to Delaware law (Residential Landlord-Tenant Code), a lease agreement grants the tenant certain rights, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to seek out housing without discrimination.
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
In addition to the below, check your local county and municipality for additional landlord-tenant regulations.
Landlord Responsibilities in Delaware
Landlords in Delaware are required to keep the unit in habitable condition and must also make requested repairs in a timely manner (12 days). If they do not, then tenants have the right to take at least 2 forms of alternative action—they may withhold up to 2/3rds rent or make the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from future rental payments.
Here is a list of essential amenities that Delaware landlords are or are not responsible for.
|Kitchen appliances (if provided)||Yes|
|Washers and dryers||Yes|
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants for exercising their right to habitable housing (e.g. filing a health or safety complaint).
Tenant Responsibilities in Delaware
Apart from paying rent in a timely manner, Delaware tenants must:
- Keep the unit in a safe and habitable condition
- Keep fixtures clean and sanitary
- Make small repairs and maintenance
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
Evictions in Delaware
- Nonpayment of rent – If a Delaware tenant fails to pay rent then the landlords may issue a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If they do not pay, then the landlord may file for eviction.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs then the landlord may provide a written 7-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the tenant fails to abide by the terms of the notice then the landlords may pursue eviction. Landlords do not need to provide any notice for second violations.
- Illegal acts – If a qualifying illegal act is committed on the premises, then the landlord may pursue immediate eviction.
At-will tenants are entitled to at least 60 days’ notice before eviction. It is also illegal for landlords to evict tenants as a form of retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.
Security Deposits in Delaware
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 1 month’s rent.
- Time Limit for Returns – 20 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Delaware landlord wrongfully withholds rent then they may be liable to pay up to 2 times the original value.
- Allowable Deductions – Unpaid rent, repairs for damages that exceed normal wear and tear.
Lease Termination in Delaware
Notice requirements. If a tenant on a periodic lease wishes to terminate that lease then they must give the following amounts of notice.
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. If a tenant wishes to break a lease early then they may do so for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Lease violation
- Domestic violence
- Senior citizen or health issues
Delaware landlords do not have an obligation to re-rent a unit, so tenants who break a lease may be required to pay the remainder of the lease.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Delaware
- Rent control. Delaware does not currently enforce or prohibit rent control policies. As it stands, landlords are free to charge what they want in rental prices.
- Rental increases. Landlords must provide 60 days’ notice before raising rental prices, and the tenant has 15 days to accept or refuse. If they refuse, they must move out after the 60 days have passed.
- Rent-related fees. Late rent fees cannot exceed 5% of the total rental price for the payment period. This fee can only be charged after a state-mandated 5-day grace period.
Housing Discrimination in Delaware
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, or disability. These rules do not apply generally to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Delaware state adds additional protections for tenants on the basis of marital status, age, creed, source of income, sexual orientation, gender identity, and domestic abuse victim status.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. Housing discrimination suits are handled by the Delaware Division of Human Relations. The following acts have been highlighted as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class.
- Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
- Steering tenants towards certain neighborhoods
- Presenting a housing option as “unavailable” or “not right” for you
- Housing advertisements that say “no kids” or “professionals preferred”
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
- Providing different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Harassment meant to coerce tenants into acting against their own interests
Delaware does not outline specific penalties for discriminatory practices. Tenants can file complaints against the landlord at the Division’s website here.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Delaware
Landlord Right to Entry in Delaware
Landlords must provide at least 48 hours; advanced notice for non-emergency situations. Landlords do not need to get permission to enter in the case of emergencies.
Small Claims Court in Delaware
Delaware small claims court will hear rent-related disputes valued up to $15,000 as well as eviction cases. Contract violations in Delaware carry a 3-year statute of limitations. More info about proceedings can be found here.
Mandatory Disclosures in Delaware
Delaware landlords are required to make 3 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. Landlords that own homes built after 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized agents. Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Landlord-Tenant Law. Landlords must provide this Summary of Delaware Residential Landlord-Tenant Code at the beginning of a tenant’s lease.
Changing the Locks in Delaware
Delaware does not set guidelines on who can change the locks. As such, it is generally assumed that tenants cannot change the locks without landlord permission. Landlords are prohibited from unilaterally changing locks as a form of eviction.
Additional Resources for Delaware Renters
To learn more, please refer to the below digital resources.
This code outline all landlord and tenant obligations under Delaware state law. Referencing these statutes may be necessary if you need to bring legal action against your landlord or tenant for failing to adhere to the state-mandated obligations or the terms of their lease agreement.
As sanctioned by the state government, this organization can provide you with resources necessary to facilitate a legal and harmonious landlord-tenant relationship. This includes an opportunity to participate in programs to increase your knowledge and understanding of the state’s applicable laws.
This landing page can act as a jumping off point for anyone wishing to learn more about Delaware’s fair housing regulations. This includes tenants who are seeking to file a formal complaint against their landlord’s discriminatory actions.